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To Avoid Sales Hell Repent the 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Engagement It's a slippery slope to marketing perdition when you don't give customers the attention your data makes possible.

By Mark Harrington Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Evangelism: it's the new marketing buzzword, a repurposed religious term that describes converting an occasional customer into a loyal brand fanatic. But few brands have actually figured this out. Many are still committing – to borrow another religious trope – the Seven Deadly Sins of Customer Engagement.

Calling these mistakes "deadly" is hyperbole, but the fact remains that these transgressions are detrimental to business progress. One mistake is a gateway to another, and if you're guilty of one sin, you're likely guilty of many. Over time, failure to resolve these issues will leave you in marketing hell, unable to connect with your customers while your competition capitalizes on data.

But with a good plan and a good partner, you too can use technology to better connect with clients and increase sales revenue. Here are the Seven Deadly Sins of Customer Engagement.

1. Myopia.

In this case a lack of foresight, myopia occurs when companies know customer data exists but have no inventory of the information. At least 25 percent of retailers don't have a handle on their data. That leaves them in the dark about what's happening with sales and customers.

To begin, businesses need a thorough channel audit. Most retailers have some combination of ecommerce platform, POS system(s), social networks, maybe a mobile app. Assessment of each channel indicates where customer engagement is happening. From there, data must be synthesized to prevent the second deadly sin.

Related: Want Big Data to Help Your Marketing Team? Hire a Data Scientist.

2. Fragmentation.

A failure to synthesize channels for big-picture analysis hinders many businesses across an array of industries. Not for lack of effort, but because they don't have the manpower or expertise to implement a centralized system. Aside from this, most marketing technology stacks have been developed over time as technologies have emerged. The focus is more on launching the new channel, be it ecommerce, social or mobile, and with less of an eye on if all of these systems are integrated holistically.

What results is seriously skewed information. If one customer visits your store, then buys online, writes a review on Facebook, and later downloads your app, fragmented systems treat those interactions as four different customers.

So how do you create a centralized hub to synthesize data? Retrofitting a CRM isn't the answer. It can't give you real-time data or easily link to other software. The ideal platform links all your channels with your loyalty program.

Outsourcing is typically a good way to fix fragmentation. Still, many brands fall victim to its complexity and end up committing the third deadly sin.

3) Apathy (or, sometimes, intimidation).

Even for tenured professionals, big data is still a big puzzle. But retail is changing at the speed of technology, and failing to incorporate data in your strategy will ultimately lead to failure.

We worked with a client that assumed its customer base comprised upper-middle class, middle-aged females. Their marketing strategy was focused accordingly. The data actually showed that ecommerce purchases from millennials were worth 3x more. Their strategy failed to address its most valuable customer (MVC) segment.

Insight from synthesized data helps find new channels, sell more product, and even influence product development. Data empowers your brand with knowledge of exactly who your customers are and what they want. Without it, you're working off assumptions and committing the deadly fourth sin.

4. Assumption.

Today's market shifts tremendously because of technology. Any preconceived notions quickly stale.

Your data contains precise information on ages, genders, locations and buying behaviors. Still, many brands assume they know exactly who they're selling to. We see this especially with brands founded for target market stereotypes (the "old lady" perfume). As time passes, their customers change. Failure to connect with new buyers is eroding their margins.

Constant market fluctuation requires more than a "set it and forget it" approach to data. Brands must stay abreast of evolving trends and strategize accordingly. If data is not driving your strategy, then you're committing the fifth deadly sin.

Related: How Data Can Help You to Personalize Marketing Events and Boost ROI

5. Improvisation.

Assumption cheapens any strategy to just improvisation. Businesses end up formulating misguided strategies around perceived brand identity rather than real customer information, and the result is no better than shots in the dark. Not only will you fail to engage a huge and valuable portion of your customer base, but your one-size-fits-all marketing approach doesn't address needs or treat your customers as individuals, which leads to the sixth deadly sin.

6. Impersonalization.

Impersonalization is failure to deliver tailored customer experiences. With so much data at our disposal, there's no excuse for the generic messages and campaigns so many brands still do. A colleague who purchased men's shaving cream in a unisex store recently received an email promotion for lipstick. Something as simple as gender segmentation could make this communication effective and personal.

Data goes well beyond that. Demographics, geography, purchase history and social engagements allow brands to tailor promotions to customer traits. Failure to customize communication leaves customers feeling alienated or misunderstood. And without targeted campaigns, can you really track effectiveness? Failure to do that leads to the ultimate deadly sin.

7. Ignorance.

The cardinal sin of customer engagement is ignorance. If you're engaging in any of the aforementioned sins, you're probably not tracking campaign effectiveness and data isn't providing visibility into your business.

When you have a customer engagement program free of the seven deadly sins, you'll see the direct results of your promotions and be able to adjust. If your MVCs didn't react to a certain offer, you can alter it next time. If a promotion did particularly well with one customer segment, you can repeat it with another. Tracking and measurement are top priorities for planning your next move.

Good news for all brands: It's never too late to set your business on a path to customer-engagement redemption. Whether you're leading the charge in your industry or playing catchup, insight from data guarantees smarter marketing decisions and improved customer engagement. You just have to start by finding the right partner whose expertise provides the penance that will absolve you of these sins.

Related: 4 Marketing Analytics Tools That Are Shaping the Industry

Mark Harrington

Vice President of Marketing at Clutch

Mark Harrington is vice president of marketing for Clutch, which delivers advanced consumer management solutions, including strategic customer identification, understanding, targeting and engagement to the world’s leading brands like Pandora, Harley-Davidson, New Balance and The Body Shop. Harrington’s unique expertise spans publishing to payments and education to ecommerce, serving strategic marketing roles with leading corporations like eBay, Citi and Pearson and pioneering startups like Half.com, Ecount and Infonautics. He’s excelled in Inc 500s to Fortune 500s, been instrumental in landmark exits worth over a half billion dollars and helped catapult an array of pioneering industry solutions.

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